Will DeSantis Fight, and for Whom?

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Over at Hot Air, Allahpundit notes that Florida's Governor, Ron DeSantis, may soon have to take a stand on an issue that can severely damage his chances for reelection, not to mention his presidential prospects:

Cropped from an image by Urbantallahassee, via Wikimedia Commons, license.
He recently signed a bill into law that bans abortion in Florida after 15 weeks, a shrewd compromise that places him and the GOP in the sweet spot of national opinion on the subject. Most voters are willing to allow abortions in the first trimester but are open to meaningful restrictions after that. That's exactly what Florida's new regime does, befitting a state that's still purplish. It makes sense in the context of DeSantis's reelection campaign too. He's earned some goodwill from Democratic voters there for keeping schools and businesses open during the pandemic. He doesn't want to make any false moves months away from Election Day that might spook them, like signing a total ban on abortion into law.

But does he have a choice? If the state legislature puts a total ban on his desk, what will he do?

He should start thinking about it. The rumblings have begun. [link omitted, bold added]
Allahpundit correctly notes that no matter what DeSantis does in such a situation, he stands to lose political capital.

DeSantis has so far seemed the heir apparent to the kind of voters Donald Trump has attracted to the Republican Party, in part due to his reputation as a "fighter," and he has certainly proved happy to assume that mantle. Those of us who have been disappointed with this turn of events over the past couple of years might be tempted to heave a sigh of relief.

That would be premature, because circumstances in Florida appear to be favorable for DeSantis to be able to pander to the theocrats, and yet conveniently have his hands tied:
DeSantis's ideal solution would be to wait 'til next year, I assume. Stick with the 15-week ban until he's safely reelected, then move to satisfy righties in 2023 with a total ban knowing there's nothing Democrats can do to punish him at that point. But I don't know if he can afford to wait. Dragging his feet on a total ban would also leave him open to attacks by 2024 rivals.

There's another complicating factor: The Florida Constitution. Section 23 of that document's Declaration of Rights reads, "Right of privacy. -- Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person's private life except as otherwise provided herein." The standard pro-life argument against Roe, that there's no "right of privacy" in the U.S. Constitution, isn't true in Florida thanks to the state Constitution. And yes, ... the Florida Supreme Court has already interpreted their state's constitutional right of privacy to encompass abortion. [links omitted, bold added]
The rest of the post explains how this could work in the governor's favor.

So DeSantis, who am sure would happily enact a complete ban on abortion if he could and he thought it would help him get or keep power, might slip through the cracks long enough to be in a position to do exactly this as President.

But I could be wrong. Perhaps DeSantis himself is closer to where most Americans are. If so, he could well have an excellent opportunity to establish himself as his own man, and to show that he will fight for what he thinks is right, regardless of who his opponents are.

That's what a true fighter would do, but I'm not holding my breath for that. I think we just have another Trumpian pugilist here, although a bit slicker and with more of a free-market reputation (however undeserved) than the original.

-- CAV


NLRB vs. the Truth

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

A column in the Washington Examiner discusses the ramifications of the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) opposition to what it calls "captive audience" meetings, in which employers explain the ramifications of unionizing to their employees:

I hear the NLRB recommends this protective headgear when researching union membership on the web... (Image by Novia Wu, via Unsplash, license.)
The NLRB's vision would also require employees to self-select for these informational meetings, automatically reducing the number of people who will benefit. Think of all-staff meetings on workplace safety, reorganization efforts, or employee benefits. An employee can't be expected to know whether or how they will benefit from such a meeting until they attend. Hence, such meetings are typically required for all employees.

The board clearly underestimates stigma and peer pressure in the workplace too. By voluntarily attending an employer meeting on the topic, employees may trigger peer pressure from colleagues who suspect they have misgivings about voting for the union. [bold added]
The author is far more charitable than the bureaucrats at the NLRB deserve when he says they underestimate the problem of peer pressure around such meetings: Past efforts to expand union membership have also centered around procedures that would have invited bullying by causing individuals who might not wish to unionize to basically have to admit it publicly when doing so could cause them to become targets of those who do.

Indeed, this is entirely consistent with the whole idea of forcing employers to deal with unions in the first place.

-- CAV


Michael Mann's Koch-Up

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

While listening to a recent interview of Alex Epstein by Yaron Brook, I got wind of an interesting piece at the Epstein's Energy Talking Points substack.


The interview is, of course, mostly about Fossil Future, which is available today, but at one point, the conversation turned to one of the many tired old ways leftists attack opponents they won't engage (and probably couldn't answer anyway), namely the old Who Paid for That? gotcha.

Not only is that a lousy argument to begin with (as Joakim Book makes clear, but climate catastrophist Michael Mann once baselessly levied it against Epstein.

Epstein's Substack reply is worth quoting here, because this charge will surely emerge from among the din of cancellation attempts and other confessions of envy and intellectual impotence from the left:
The number one form of attack related to my finances is that I am "funded by the Koch Brothers."

For example, climate scientist and activist Michael Mann called me "the Koch Brothers' attack dog" in response to a piece I wrote in Forbes. I asked Mann to substantiate this totally false charge, and his response was to block me on Twitter.

...

The bizarre origin of the claim that my work is driven by "The Koch Brothers" is that the Charles Koch Foundation supposedly gave my former employer, the Ayn Rand Institute $50,000-$100,000 total over a period of many years. Given that ARI's budget was on the order of $10 million a year when I worked there, the idea that this paltry sum moved them, and then me, to take a certain positions on fossil fuels should be absurd on its face.

It is then even more absurd to claim that this paltry contribution to my employer of over a decade ago still drives my work! [emphasis in original]
The interview also notes that ARI is notorious for not doing what donors ask them to do -- as one might expect and hope from Ayn Rand's own example (Search "popular" to find.).

-- CAV


Autism Cases Track Organic Food Sales

Monday, May 23, 2022

But, as scientists know, correlation does not imply causation.

Over at the Genetic Literacy Project, Arvind Suresh debunks the idea that the increase in autism cases over the past couple of decades might be due to vaccines, or GMOs paired with glyphosate. In fact, he argues that there is a solid explanation for the increase.

But before getting to that explanation, Suresh recaps the sordid beginnings of such scares in the case of research fraud that kicked off the original vaccine scare, and briefly addresses the more recent claims about GMOs-glyphosate.

The latter he does in part by pointing out the absurdity of cherry-picking data, finding spurious correlations, and running with them. The title of this post comes from my favorite of the graphs he generated or found, which shows a correlation between organic food sales and cases of autism diagnosed between between 1998 and 2008 with a p-value of 0.9971.

Once the debunkery is over comes what may prove anti-climactic for the reader: The real explanation is that the increase is a statistical artifact. Suresh a quotes a 2015 story from Forbes on this:

Organic food is a rip-off, but it does not cause autism. (Image by Kenny Eliason, via Unsplash, license.)
In Denmark in particular, the diagnostic criteria for autism expanded in 1994 to include a spectrum of disorders with a broader list of symptoms, thereby widening the definition of autism. Then in 1995, national data tracking began to include diagnoses made from outpatient patient visits rather than just diagnoses of those admitted to a healthcare facility.

...

Changes in reporting practices can account for most (60 percent) of the increase in the observed prevalence of ASDs [Autism Spectrum Disorders --ed] in children born from 1980 through 1991 in Denmark. Hence, the study supports the argument that the apparent increase in ASDs in recent years is in large part attributable to changes in reporting practices.
Suresh notes that these criteria changed "in every country that has seen soaring autism rates."

I seem to recall hearing about this at some point, but the fact that there are evidently many people who go on pushing the vaccine and glyphosate narratives makes me appreciate what the good folks at the Genetic Literacy Project are doing.

There are doubtless plenty of people out there who lack strong scientific backgrounds, have been conditioned by our dominant culture to fear technology and corporations, and are also swamped by bad information. Nevertheless, they can be reached with good data, sound reasoning against crackpot theories, and solid, more scientific thinking.

-- CAV

Updates

Today
: (1) Changed rates to cases in title. (2) Fixed some grammatical errors in the last paragraph.


Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, May 20, 2022

Four Kid-Related Things...

... Which Are Also Four Random Wins From the Positive Focus Logs

***

1. My son, who is almost nine, has been a picky eater all his life. Although he is branching out, albeit very slowly, having takeout at home used to present a conundrum for us: Let him pick the restaurant at the risk of boring the rest of us -- or not, with him having to eat his usual default sandwich or something he's not really going to enjoy?

That's suboptimal on the evening, and neither is any good long-term -- either for encouraging him to branch out or for helping him learn to deal with having a limited palate, if that's what the future holds for him.

One day, I was going to have to run a couple of small errands on the way to picking up Mexican. Realizing that Panera, a place he likes, was basically on the way, I realized we could order him something for me to pick up on the way home. The timing worked out very well, too, so we now have good a way for him to get something he likes on dine-out night when he doesn't like the place the rest of us want.

Aerial view of Vilano Beach, northeast of St. Augustine. (Image by Lance Asper, via Unsplash, license.)
2. Because my wife had work obligations that evening, I recently got to accompany my daughter, who is ten now, on a harbor cruise with her girl scout troop. Setting aside some fortunately brief green propaganda by the tour guide, it was a fun experience.

The cruise, in Matanzas Bay, was part history lesson about the oldest city in America and part wildlife-spotting, with dolphins being the highlight. The bay -- whose modern Spanish name refers to a religiously-motivated slaughter of French settlers by the Spanish -- happily lived up to its original French name, which meant River of Dolphins.

Travel Tip for Locals: We live near Jacksonville, but took State Route A1A between Ponte Vedra Beach and St. Augustine. This was scenic and probably also less stressful than I-95 or Phillips Highway would have been during rush hour.

3. Although I love soccer, it has not caught on with my son, and after he completed his season, we agreed to give him a break from it, to try other sports. (He doesn't seem to care for sports played with balls in general.)

The silver lining, as I learned from the mother of the most talented player on the team, is that we won't have all the expenses associated with him being on a traveling team.

I'm not giving up hope that we can someday bond over soccer -- I didn't start playing until I was about twelve. -- but you can't force something like that, and I'm backing off.

4. My daughter, taking a cue from me using Alexa as a cooking timer, has really taken to timers and alarms. This I learned one morning during writing time, when I heard her alarm going off at 6:00 a.m. She enjoys anime, and likes to watch a bit before getting ready for school, prompted by another alarm.

If her food is too hot for her at home, she sometimes sets a five-minute timer to let it cool off.

She is also pretty organized for someone her age: I have not had to prompt her to do homework, even for longer-range projects a single time this school year. She just does it.

-- CAV


Abortion Also Preserves Male Autonomy

Thursday, May 19, 2022

I recall life as a young man enough to remember that the abortion debate was, in a certain sense, not "real" to me. I was in no danger of becoming pregnant myself, and I made sure I wasn't the only one using contraception. I considered and accepted Ayn Rand's arguments in favor of abortion, but my understanding wasn't on a gut level.

The passion to stand up for that right, as well as the thirst for the knowledge to become clearer about the issue were both less for me then than they are now. This was partly simply an issue of my age and newness to philosophical thinking, but part of this was certainly due to a casual blindness. I am amazed and a little embarrassed to admit that even after a close call, I really just knew that I was pro-choice. Abortion remained in my mind, mostly an issue for women.

(To be clear, being young and male were just part of that problem. The relegation of women to second-class status in society was more of a problem when I was younger, and the reaction, of framing this part of equality as a woman's issue may have energized women to fight for this right, but did not help make this any more real to me, either. This is an issue of individual rights: It is not just in women's best interests to achieve political equality with men: It is in everyone's best interests.)

It disturbs me to look back on those days. I think I was more thoughtful than average then, and yet this life-and-death issue simply did not hit me as a life-and-death issue in the same way it does today.

That is a big problem in the abortion debate -- the issue of motivation, particularly among the young men whose futures are in the crosshairs now, assuming that Roe vs. Wade gets overturned. They can't get knocked up.

Or so they think.

This is what I have been thinking ever since I happened upon a question-and-answer from You Literally Asked for It, a parody advice blog.

The blog takes actual questions that have been fielded by the likes of Carolyn Hax, Allison Green, and Ellie Tesher -- questions that come from a desire for validation rather than a sincere concern with clarity -- and gives them the answers the authors seem to be fishing for -- good and hard.

One, originally fielded by Carolyn Hax, came from a married woman who was considering "accidentally" getting pregnant despite her agreement with her husband that they were going to remain childless. The answer makes a couple of great points about the decision to have children.

The first is that it's a great responsibility:

Bringing a child into this world is a serious, life-changing event for all involved. An entire whole human's life will be in your hands, and making the intentional decision to create a living being carries tremendous emotional, financial, and social weight. This is not a journey upon which one should embark cavalierly.

Unless you personally just really want a baby!!!!!!
From image by Gayatri Malhotra, via Unsplash, license.
It is worth noting that there are people who want to override such considerations -- who aren't directly affected one way or the other from carelessly bringing a child into the world and yet want to make other people do exactly that.

And that, along with the woman who wants to trick her husband into twenty years of childrearing or financial hardship, brings up the following:
Sure, you'll kind of be a rapist, but you'll be a mommy, too!!!

Your husband's personal reproductive agency and entire fucking self-determined future matter little in the grand scheme of the universe, which spawned from nothingness untold billions of years ago with the express purpose of leading up to this moment, in which you get the baby you are owed at all costs. It's a real gamble to think that your husband knows his own heart and mind; you'd really be taking a major risk expecting him to use his own life experiences, knowledge of the world, and hopes and desires to inform whether or not he wishes to be a parent. No way that works out! That's just topsy-turvy thinking all around!
The punchline at the end is good, too, but pales in comparison to what we face today, with the likely overturning of Roe vs. Wade: Anti-abortionists -- who have no earthly reason to offer for their contention that abortion is murder -- do not themselves want the countless babies this will cause to be brought into the world by unwilling people. In that respect, the letter writer is arguably, possibly a rung of hell higher than they.

The anti-abortion movement really is an attack on individual sovereignty, waged for pretend reasons, and -- we are being told -- on behalf of what are not yet human beings, much less individuals.

As the Ayn Rand villain, Ellsworth Toohey once put it, "Don't bother to examine a folly, ask yourself only what it accomplishes."

-- CAV


Shellenberger Profiled at Common Sense

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

At Bari Weiss's Common Sense Substack blog is a good profile of best-selling author and California gubernatorial candidate Michael Shellenberger, whose Apocalypse Never I enjoyed and highly recommend. Its title is "Can a Red-Pilled Tree-Hugger Save California?"

I think the piece does a very good job of describing the promise and limits of the Shellenberger candidacy, and why he could win in California:

Image by Michael Shellenberger, via Wikimedia Commons, license.
That became clear during his days as an environmental activist. He'd spent years fighting for renewable energy, but there were limits to what renewables could do, and, starting in the mid-aughts, he started to rethink the conventional wisdom on nuclear-power plants. Most environmentalists hated them. He didn't get it. Nuclear was an abundant and sustainable energy source, and there were new technologies that made it safer, reduced radioactive waste, and enabled growth. Wasn't that good? The environmentalists didn't think so. They accused him of being a traitor. "It was always the usual Judas sellout caricature," Shellenberger said.

He had the same experience with homelessness, although Shellenberger pointed out that, "by the time I got to 'San Fransicko,' I knew there was a double-game being played." In other words, he knew there was a chasm between what progressive activists said they wanted and what they actually wanted. They claimed to want to end homelessness, just as the environmentalists had claimed to want to combat climate change. But that wasn't true. Really, they wanted the fight, the feeling of moral superiority and, of course, the cash for their NGOs.

In both cases, he'd started from a progressive place -- the environment is precious; so are human beings sleeping in tents -- and wound up somewhere else. It was not exactly conservative, but it had a conservative hue to it. ("There needs to be some renewal of faith in civilization, in liberal democracy, in, for lack of a better word, in capitalism," Shellenberger said in the car.)

He called his worldview "physicalist," as in: How does this transform the physical, or lived, environment, in the center of San Francisco or the Central Valley or the Mojave or wherever? Another way of describing it is commonsensical. He wanted to fund the police to clean up bad neighborhoods, and he wanted to incentivize development, and he wanted a "tax peace." In a text, he explained: "No increase or decrease until we end homelessness crisis, achieve school choice, and energy/water/housing abundance." [bold added]
The bad and the good of Shellenberger is that he has a far-left background -- He was even a Chomskyite at one point! -- but he is far from suffering from the doctrinnaire, intellectually insular, and near-religious intellectual mode so common among today's Democrats. He is willing to question whether a policy achieves what it is supposed to and, if it doesn't, he will consider alternatives, even including (gasp!) capitalism. That said, he is far from being a capitalist: For example, we need police to protect individual rights, not to "incentivize" development (although they do: rule of law does encourage prosperity).

I don't see perfection here, but I do see two things as close to good as we will get in California any time soon: (1) A man who can address that electorate on its own terms, and (2) a man who is both reasonable and humanist. I think Shellenberger genuinely wants the people in his state to prosper, and is open to questioning (and ditching) the conventional wisdom there in order to help that happen.

That is a rare combination in a politician these days, and it makes any such candidate worthy of consideration. I would consider voting for Shellenberger in most contests today. Against Gavin Newsom, the choice is a no-brainer.

-- CAV